Well Chosen Letters #12: Smashing Conference Freiburg, Germany 2017 & Maria

I hope you have had a good few weeks. The last time I sent the newsletter I was getting ready for my trip to the Smashing Conference in Freiburg, Germany. Well, I went, came back, and if I told you that many things happened there and here after I got back, it would be an understatement, right?

We have all seen the news, right? My home country has suffered an unprecedented and unparalleled damage due to Hurricane Maria. Before I move on to share with you about my trip to Germany and all that jazz, I feel the need to share some things with you.

To those of you who have asked about my mother in particular, I thank you. You have no idea how much it means to me that you have called me, texted me, emailed me, stopped me to ask me how can you help. I know many people. Not many have asked. So, your concern has meant a lot.

My mother lives on a 20th floor in an apartment in the city. Thankfully, she lives next door to a hospital and she got power relatively quickly. However, though the building has a cistern, the pumps are not working to distribute water in the building. Needless to say, this has been a challenge for her and her partner.

Getting around the island in the city is apparently not that bad in some sectors. However, other roads and bridges have collapsed. Thus, transportation is spotty and because the entire population has suffered loss, devastation, and are unable to communicate by either phone or transportation, the distribution of any resources is beyond challenging. My mother included. Gas lines take anywhere between 5-11 hours in the city. Imagine those in rural areas.

The apartment suffered physical and structural damage. She does the best she can, and though it is dire, when you call her it is her usual, “Ay Nana (My nickname back home)!, how are you?” in an upbeat voice. Physically she is okay so far. Her partner is okay too. And to answer the question in your mind, no, she will not leave. That is out of question for her for many reasons.

Some of you have asked me how to help her. I put together a shopping list on Amazon that I plan to ship to her as soon as I know she can get mail. Not sure if you know, but there is no banking system. So, there is no ATMs and no cash, which people need desperately to buy whatever gas or provisions are left and being sold somewhere. Are you getting the picture? It is like talking about the aftermath of a revolution or war. But back to the point— if you want to send her something, please feel free to email me and I will send you her address. If you want to shop from the list I started, let me know too and I will send you the link. But it is a public one and you if you look for me you will find it.

What else can you do to help? Push the government to deploy its resources. We are after all an US Commonwealth. Whatever your political views may be about my country, please know that this became a humanitarian cause the moment Maria touched us. This is beyond whatever you may think about our politics. Here is a place to contact: Defendpr.com/action. This site lets you write your congressman to mobilize things to help. You can also give to these places:

I am trying to organize a fundraiser to help specific families. I don’t have details yet since I started conversations with Dr. Coleman, one of our Deans for the College of Arts and Sciences at USA. In the meantime, there is a bake sale/supply donation hosted by the PSI Foreign Languages Honors Society in conjunction with LASA tomorrow Friday, September 29th from 11:00 am -- 1:00pm in the Humanities Court Yard at USA. Things that you can give:

  • bottled water
  • baby wipes
  • hand sanitizer
  • diapers
  • canned food and milk (human and pets)
  • baby formula
  • garbage bags
  • towels
  • pain relief meds  as well as stomach and diarrhea for children and adults
  • mosquito repellent
  • blankets
  • pillows
  • first aid kits
  • laundry detergents
  • soap and deodorant
  • cots

I will finish this section of the newsletter by thanking you for your help. When I think of my island and the photos I see, I can’t help but feel intense pain. I have not been able to sleep. And soon you will see that I am also planning on hosting a sale of my artwork online to give. But I need to get things to my mother first.

If you are still here and want to keep reading, wow! Thank you! Let me share with you about Germany then! Here are some photos that you will enjoy! The photo will take you to my Flickr album. Either hit new tab to stay on this page or hit back on your browser when you are done.

Smashing Conference Freiburg 2017

Iris, our senior editor at Smashing, gave me a beautiful travel book on the screenshot below to fill in with notes as a souvenir. When I came back, I printed some of the photos and created this travel journal. See the full video below or on YouTube.

Some pics you will see on the travel journal. Do check out the video or the Flickr gallery to see more!

The conference itself was well, smashing! The people, the talks, the venue— which was built in the 1200s, the town, the food, ah! I wish I had been able to stay longer. The people I met are people who are doing or have done cutting edge stuff on the web these days.

I was very nervous about my talk since mine was not a technical one. So much so that I had to sit down to draw to calm my nerves. But you know what? Once I stepped on the stage, a switch went on and boom! I forgot where I was and just talked to people. It also helps that I memorize my talks. That way I am not bound to either the monitor, the stage, or the podium. I moved around the audience and talked. I received a lot, a lot of great feedback. I was very humbled and honored to have been received so well. Smashing Magazine has been so much part of my life for several years and I have always felt very much appreciated and respected. This trip and experience just solidified that even more. My talk was about Harnessing The Creative Mind. If you want to see the slides, you can do so here. There will be a video of the talk but I don’t have those links yet.

Everybody there walks or bikes everywhere, people talk to each other, there is a sense of community. And of course, if I was not fast enough at the store, I was going to hear about it in German! I had a blast. It also super cold and I came back sick. Still recovering but managing. I did not have good clothes for the weather and had to quickly buy one in the rain the day of my talk. As I like to say though, better to be cold in Germany than back home! It was great!

Couple of things before I go:

  • I am slowly able to work on new pieces but please do let me know ideas for my next show!
  • Also, do you want me to design your Christmas cards? If so, let’s talk!
  • Don’t forget to visit my new store! Click, click, click here!

And with that, I wish you a great weekend and a fabulous week ahead! Until then my friends!

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